APPLETON (NBC 26) — American Legion Post 38 in Appleton honored the Northeast Wisconsin Veteran of the Year Tuesday afternoon. At a ceremony attended by family, friends and Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Retired Captain John Gillespie was recognized for his exemplary service, dedication, and excellence.
Gillespie was awarded the honor out of 50 nominations. A longtime Wisconsin resident with a distinguished military career, Gillespie's notable contributions extend beyond his service in the military.
One of his significant achievements is the creation of the Rawhide Boys Ranch, a project he initiated with the assistance of former Packers quarterback Bart Starr. The Rawhide Boys Ranch now serves more than 750 at-risk youth in Wisconsin, leaving a lasting impact on the community.
However, Gillespie said what he is most proud of came long after his military service. He shared a personal story.
"We adopted a veteran, who became a foster son of ours," Gillespie said. "He passed away about a year ago, leaving an estate to a charity I set up called 1776 American Dream."
Gillespie plans to use this charity to support veterans in a unique way through a program called "Celebrate the Discovery."
Describing the program as a peer-to-peer faith-based mentoring initiative for veterans, Gillespie emphasized a new approach to providing assistance to those who have served.
When asked about being honored in front of family and friends and receiving the award from Congressman Gallagher, Gillespie humbly said, "I'm honored. I know there are dozens or hundreds of other veterans that should get this award. One thing led to another, and so I'm really honored."
"It's been really inspiring," Gallagher said. "It's an amazing year, and it's amazing how veterans transition back into the community, carrying their ethos forward and investing their time and energy in serving their fellow veterans and Northeast Wisconsin."
Apart from establishing the Rawhide Boys Ranch, Gillespie's contributions include establishing Plamann Park, volunteering with American Legion Post 38 in Appleton, and dedicating himself to a peer-to-peer faith-based mentoring program for veterans.